Communications: Uniquely You, and From the Heart

I recently came across this post by Andrew Simonet, the founder of Artist U, which offers simple but incredibly sound advice about how to communicate with your friends and supporters. I recommend it highly.

#FUNDRAISING: Outreach Tactics & Technologies Need To Adjust To Demographics

Mail still best way to get donationsWith the texts and tweets and the touchscreens and with those crazy(-cool) Google goggles and whatnot, a nonprofit would be daft to send those old-fashioned appeals by mail. The cost of printing and stamps, the hassle of upkeep of a database of address, the imposition of making potential donors find their checkbooks buried ever-farther into their desk drawers… who would bother?

But an extensive whitepaper from the folks at Convio makes it quite clear that not only is the traditional through-the-snail-mail appeal still a great way to solicit support for your charity, it is the hands-down winner over all media outreach. As the chart to the left reveals, outreach by mail achieves incredibly high response rates. That said − and unsurprisingly − the impact of mailers fades as one moves down the age groups, as Generations X and (especially) Y choose to respond to other media as well. What media will carry the donation message into the future?

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#FUNDRAISING: Outreach Tactics & Technologies Need To Adjust To Demographics

Mail brings almost 1/2 of all donations - for now
Mail brings almost 1/2 of all donations – for now

With the texts and tweets and the touchscreens and with those crazy(-cool) Google goggles and whatnot, a nonprofit would be daft to send those old-fashioned appeals by mail. The cost of printing and stamps, the hassle of upkeep of a database of address, the imposition of making potential donors find their checkbooks buried ever-farther into their desk drawers… who would bother?

But an extensive whitepaper from the folks at Convio makes it quite clear that not only is the traditional through-the-snail-mail appeal still a great way to solicit support for your charity, it is the hands-down winner over all media outreach. As the chart to the left reveals, outreach by mail achieves incredibly high response rates. That said − and unsurprisingly − the impact of mailers fades as one moves down the age groups, as Generations X and (especially) Y choose to respond to other media as well. What media will carry the donation message into the future?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Postal Service Rates To Rise on 27 January

US Postal Service Stamp
Forever stamps still good after the 27th.

We have managed to put off the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ for a couple of months, but we can’t avoid the changes in postal rates coming in a couple of weeks. Thanks to our fine business partners at Ecoprint in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the heads-up! The US Postal Service (USPS) has been on hard times over the last 5-7 years due to the overwhelming presence of email, social networks, and e-fax services. Moreover, the semi-private/ public service is carrying a striking burden of compensation packages for its executives that, frankly, seem to outweigh the performance of the venerable institution. Be that as it may, be prepared for upticks to many of the services. What’s coming at the end of the month?

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Tips for Attention-Grabbing Headlines

News Flash!
(Photo credit: Olivander)

First you have to get their attention. That’s the punchline to an old joke, which I recall years later  because it is a truth about writing. Headlines are a case in point. Your prose may be magnificent, but cap it with a ho-hum headline and it won’t be read. Author and consultant Geoff Livingston offers five tips for better headlines: use active voice, add drama, make it authentic, keep it short, and keep it open ended.

#HOWTO: Setup A Pheed Account & Why It Could Prove Valuable For Nonprofits

Pheed connects to Facebook and Twitter
Pheed offers easy, and copyrighted, blogging

Alright, I admit that when I first heard about one of the newest social networks out there, Pheed, I was underwhelmed. Are we not overwhelmed with social networks as it is? But both professional engagement and personal curiosity got the better of me, and I signed up. The interface looks rather like Tumblr, whose praises we have often sung on this blog. The screenshot to the left is Pheed’s signup page: clearly it is pitched toward an artistic, and likely younger, audience. Nevertheless, it has a couple of features that nonprofits and charities could find especially useful as they present their own content via their social networks. Here’s how to sign up and see if it could be of use to your organization.

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Resources: Brain-Bending Books

It’s back-to-school time, and since learning is lifelong, here are some recent books to expand your horizons within the nonprofit world.

Is Writing Newsletters a Waste of Your Time?

Ben's Printing Press
Photo credit: mtsofan

If you’ve ever wondered whether your printed or email newsletter really does you any good, you’re in good company. Now you can benefit from the musings and findings of ten different nonprofit practitioners. Nonprofit newsletters were the subject of the latest Nonprofit Blog Carnival, a monthly collaboration in which bloggers on nonprofits choose a common topic and let fly. There are pieces on newsletter overhauls, why newsletters don’t work, why newsletters are still valuable, and what donors really want.

 

#SOCIALNETWORKS: Sweat The Details, But Focus On The Big Picture

Screaming to get attention
In cyberspace, no one need hear you scream.

Ever feel like your nonprofit or small business is doing some pretty interesting stuff online to share the really interesting stuff you are doing in the real world − but no one seems to be hearing you? You are not alone in having those feelings, especially on a Monday − on a week that sees back-to- school for many kids and the start of the political convention season. We all could use a little pep talk.

Plenty of research shows that activity on social networks for businesses and charities pays dividends in many different ways, but what must be remembered is that some of those ways are not quantifiable. Which is not to say they do not have value. Consider this:

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#PROAGING: Olympics & Social Media Suggest Shrinking Digital Divide

The Social Olympics in LondonNBC might have gotten some bad press for giving away results before showing them tape-delayed in the lucrative hours of prime time. These Olympics have both been the ‘first Social Olympics’ and the first to struggle to understand what such instantaneous communication can mean to corporate and sporting interests. And, as it turns out, most of the griping is coming from the world of social networks. According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Americans find the NBC communications conglomerate’s coverage excellent or good.

What are the numbers when age is taken into consideration?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Keep Storytelling In Forefront, Whatever Platforms You Use

Retweeting can be huge but ephemeralOprah Winfrey likes a book. BOOM! It’s a best-seller and a big movie. Justin Bieber retweets something that catches his eye. POW! It’s trending huge for forty-eight hours! Who wouldn’t want that kind of attention? Well, often nonprofits and charities don’t want that kind of attention. The best/worst case of this kind of virality is the Kony 2012 campaign, which we followed closely earlier this year and don’t have the stomach to repeat.

What nonprofits and charities want is steady growth in awareness, volunteerism, and donations. They don’t need the huge splash (some small splashes don’t hurt!), but they use the same social networks that the Oprahs and the Biebers of the world use. How do they use the same tools to develop dissimilar results.

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#FUNDRAISING: The Holiday Season For Donations Begins Now. Ready?

Summer is when you plan your holiday fundraisingThe pools are open and busy. The grill has cooled down since the July-4th Picnic. The MLB All-Star Game is tonight. It’s July. One of the traditional/old-fashioned ways to disrupt the heat is to hold a “Christmas in July” party, and your nonprofit or charity should be having one. Why? To celebrate the good work you have been doing for the last six months, and to energize yourselves for the critical holiday season of solicitation and fundraising that should hit its peak in mid-November and continue right through the new year. Yep, the groundwork for a successful holiday season needs to start soon, like tomorrow.

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#SOCIALMEDIA: Facebook & WordPress Join Forces To Connect Blogging With Timeline

Wordpress can update Timeline with this addition
Click to enlarge

For some time one could link one’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that if your nonprofit updated its Facebook page, a tweet would automatically be generated − and vice versa. If your organization had a blog running the WordPress platform (as does MKCREATIVEmedia), you could install a plugin that auto-tweets your posts. And if your auto-tweets are connected to your Facebook account, the blog post would be tweeted, the tweet would be linked to your Facebook account, a visitor in Facebook could see the tweet, click the tweet and get to the blog post.

Confusing? Yes. Thankfully, developers at Facebook and at WordPress have developed a plugin to shorten that convoluted trip.

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Twitter Continues To Expand Through Mobile Devices

Mobile phones and Twitter go great togetherThe Pew Internet and American Life Project has brought us valuable statistics and reported notable trends in internet use over the years, and a recent report focused on the growing use of Twitter as a means of social networking. Twitter could be described as a social networking platform that punches above its weight class. Twitter turned six this past March, and by its own accounts has some 140 million users sending some 340 million tweets a day. For the sake of comparison, Facebook has over 900 million.

Yet Twitter’s political and cultural impact is almost equivalent, even if it has only 15.5% as many users. Note the ‘Arab Spring’ as a ‘Twitter Revolution.’ How does Twitter have such an oversized geopolitical impact? The same reason local nonprofits should be developing a presence on the social network.

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#COMMUNCATIONS: Blog Loud & Proud & As Often As Content Warrants

Blog Writing Mac as keywords in a Word CloudA truism/maxim/cliché that has long inspired me whenever I start a new project is, “You can fight without ever winning. But you’ll never win without a fight.” The statement inspires me because it prepares me for the possibility of not succeeding while reminding me that the only failure is not being willing to try.

And blogging definitely started that way: Could I draw readers? Did we have the material necessary to interest people over the long term? What sorts of conversations could MKCREATIVEmedia help to inspire? With so many great blogs out there, wouldn’t it be easier not to jump into the ring?

Well, a bit over two years on, we’d like to share a few things that have learned in the competition and from it too.

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#SOCIALNETWORKS: Facebook Stocks Being Sold Off & Facebook Accounts Not Expanding

Facebook's stocks continue to retreat
Should nonprofits worry?

The saga that is the Facebook IPO continues. Wall Street took a break from claiming to be the US Economy yesterday, but as of lunchtime this Tuesday, stock in the uber-social network fell below $30 for the first time. The brouhaha surrounding the IPO has largely concerned possible fraud or withholding of information from public investors, but some are wondering if the real issue is simply the product itself. If it is, what should nonprofits and charities be doing with their Facebook accounts as the company deals with this shakeout?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: The Number One Way To Gain Site Or Blog Readership Is…

Though a Supergenius, W.E. Coyote rarely simplified his plansIf your nonprofit or your charity has any online presence at all, you want readers to engage your content, click through the link(s), visit the site, and get involved with money and/or time. If you are a blog writer, you want pretty much the same, though gifts might also/instead mean advertising dollars because so many people come to your site. And, of course, no reason a nonprofit can’t have a blog that carries those ambitions for the blog and the site that hosts it.

The million-dollar question is: “How do I get people to move from scanning the headline to clicking on it and getting engaged?”

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#ADVOCACY: When A Clever Concept Just Misses, It Misses By A Lot

'Almost a homerun' usually means 'you're out!'
Sometimes being close really means missing by quite a bit

Sometimes a nonprofit’s campaign can include a fine idea that, alas, doesn’t quite get it right. Like a long fly ball to the 385-foot alley of a ball park that falls in to be caught at 382 feet, the charity can be excited at what seems to be about to happen, only to trudge back to the dugout (or in our cases today ‘back to the glitzy communications agencies’) lamenting about what could have been.

Let’s return this Monday to a theme we led off with last Monday on high-concept advocacy plans that did not quite live up to expectations. The good folks at the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (SOFII) provide us all with food-for-thought when it comes to campaigns that might have looked good in the pristine world of the conference room, but came up just short in the real world. And ‘just short’ can mean real human tragedy where the fight against hunger is concerned.

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#ADVOCACY: Make Sure Pitch Has Call To Action, Not Just High Concept

Money can thwart nonprofit outreachWhat happens when you get corporate assistance to launch a new campaign, or pro bono development from a commercial ad agency? You can get some fabulous ideas and some valuable insights on establishing your brand. You can get your materials into some of the best publication and on some of the most visited sites on the web.

But as some of our colleagues at Sofii.org have discovered, you can also get a good deal of expensive nothing. The commercial backer or ad agency might not be sensitive to the constituents who want to be involved with various types of nonprofits. They might encourage outreach through channels that are quite unlikely to reach the people your charity traditionally reaches. They might give you a fabulous product on the design board (Indeed, I think it’s safe to say that they certainly will give you a fabulous design.) that falls flat in the real world. Let’s look at a couple of examples from Sofii.

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#SOCIALMEDIA: Online Communication Is A Team Sport

The leader of a Social Media Team
Prep your staff for social media success

Difficult not to start this post with a shout-out to the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Red Sox at Fenway last night after 17 innings.  One of the best of the many anomalies of the game is the fact that the O’s Designated Hitter, Chris Davis went 0-for-8, with 5 strikeouts − and was the winning pitcher, throwing two shut-out innings when the rest of the staff was used up. It takes a team, and everyone contributes something critical to the overall success.

And it should be that way for your nonprofit or charity as well. Whatever the extent of your staff, you need to structure a social-media team who are dedicated to listening, contributing, and monitoring your outreach both quantitatively and qualitatively.

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For Nonprofits, Too, It’s Publish or Perish

Saving the world isn’t enough anymore, argues Joe Waters, co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies. In a post for Nonprofit Quarterly, he argues that nonprofits must publish useful content – whether through blogs, email newsletters, e-books, reports or videos. It’s the way to maintain a strong brand, to stand out from the crowd, and to make sure potential donors know who you are.

When you’re ready to put together a content strategy, let’s talk.

#ENVIRO: Spring Is The Time To Build Rain Barrels & Community Gardens

A community garden in Montreal, Canada
A community garden in Montreal, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The weather in the mid-Atlantic states has been, well, awkward this spring. April temperatures have been cooler than February temperatures, and drought conditions are already a concern. But with spring comes new buds, rebirth, baseball, and the opportunity to establish that community garden that you and your neighbors have been talking about all winter.  The University of Missouri Extension Program has released one of the best guides we have ever seen about getting your community garden out of the dreams of you and your neighbors and getting it into the ground for everyone to enjoy. We also found some great advice to keeping it well watered as the summer approaches.

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#CIVICS: Apple’s Billions In Tax Dodges Come Under Scrutiny

Apple's corporate headquarters at 1 Infinity Loop
The corporation is in California, but not its tax liability

Apple Inc. is making it difficult to feel sympathy for Apple Inc. When the blogosphere challenged Apple the business and Steve Jobs the CEO to act like a good corporate citizen by offering some philanthropic goodwill, we took a fairly conciliatory position that Apple’s job is innovative technology and Apple’s innovative technology has been a real boon to the nonprofit world. When the terrible conditions at Foxconn China broke, we followed the story arc with you and stressed Apple’s willingness to engage its supplier − albeit belatedly. Then the story dissolved amid retractions and mea culpas that threatened many careers outside Apple or Foxconn.

But now The New York Times has reported that Apple Inc. has been pipelining profits to subsidiaries and ghost offices both in the US and abroad that has lowered its tax liabilities by over $2 billion in the last year.

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#INTERVIEW: Sean Triner, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist of Pareto Fundraising

Sean Triner PhotoSean Triner is co-founder and “chief evangelist” of Pareto Fundraising, a direct marketing firm working in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand exclusively with nonprofit organizations. Sean is a frequent speaker and consultant at international fundraising events. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of Nonprofit Marketing 360 and a regular contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.

NPM360: How is your direct marketing model different from the U.S. model?

SEAN: The key difference is volumes. The whole population of Australia is about 20 million. Also, the costs of things are extraordinary. Cars are 40%, 50%, even 60% more here. Petrol is 50% more than in the U.S. With such small populations and such extraordinary costs, to get a direct-mail package out costs literally three times as much. The printing is three times as much. The postal stamp is three times as much. The mailing-list purchase prices are up to three times as much.

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